Why the construction sector needs to embrace new technology

Posted by Derek Mason

13th February 2024

Picture credit: Tumisu on Pixabay

With every round of news it seems there is a new article or broadcast about artificial intelligence (AI). From optimistic opinion pieces to “stealing our jobs” rhetoric, a lot of the discussion falls into the extremes, as is the fashion these days.

Of course, there are pros and cons, but we need to move away from extremes of opinion and start building on our existing AI usage to embrace this technology further. The reality is, that with an aging workforce and an ongoing housing crisis, the construction industry needs what AI can deliver.

Some of the benefits of AI, as I see it, are as follows:

 1. Help with addressing the skills gap in the industry: When we don’t have enough trained workers in multiple areas, it makes sense to lean on AI to fill in the gaps. While some of the technology is too expensive to roll out across every site, there are opportunities to embrace AI at every stage of construction. It might be too soon for most firms to invest in a robot bricklayer, but AI can be used in everything from planning, compliance and documentation through to manufacturing, transport and construction. After construction, AI can be used in monitoring and predictive maintenance.

 2. Quicker estimating and pricing at the start of a project: At any level, from a survey through to a capital construction project, pricing can be time consuming. Feed in the right information, and AI can price a simple project with a few quick clicks. A human will need to sense check the output, but the potential time-savings are huge.

 3. Attracting a tech-savvy workforce: The construction industry is sometimes seen as being behind the times. This can hinder our ability to attract talented people, so the more we can embrace AI – and shout about it – the more attractive our industry will be to new workers.

From agile mobile robots which can monitor a site alongside a human controller – to the more budget-friendly 360o camera you can strap to a human head for site inspections, much of AI is not the threat to jobs it’s sometimes painted as. Artificial intelligence will support us in greater efficiencies and innovation in our industry.

Site-monitoring technology is being developed so that if a site is photographed each week during construction, we’ll have a complete digital record of the building process, which can be stored as part of the golden thread. The technology is such that you’ll know exactly where each image was taken, as opposed to images captured by humans alone, where the location might not be recorded. This data will be easily searchable too.

It’s likely we can’t conceive of everything AI can do for the industry at this point, and we do need to be wary of considerations such as data privacy, but let’s embrace the opportunity to bring construction into the 21st century.

What do you think about this? Are you using AI in any of your work, and are you seeing the benefits? It would be good to hear your thoughts.

In the meantime, if you need assistance with the structural elements of an upcoming project, please do get in touch.

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